Under Mary’s Protection

January 1, 2021
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

( I was invited to offer a reflection for my community for the celebration of New Year’s. I wanted to share it with our larger community here.)


Over the threshold of midnight, we step into the New Year 2021.

And, oh, how we have longed for it

  • run toward it 
  • run away from what the old year pressed on us 
  • from what we heard unceasingly referred to as “these unsettling times”

Dear friends the phrase puts it mildly, doesn’t it?


Every one of us- to some degree- has felt the

  • loss 
  • sadness 
  • fear 
  • anxiety 
  • loneliness

We have been tested in our faith

  • our hope 
  • our love 
  • and, surely, our courage

Some have walked through the middle of hell
and some only on the edge.
But we have all felt its fire.

We are a world truly brought to its knees as we clothe ourselves in 2021’s first morning.


We come to our prayer to do as our reading from Numbers encourages us, emboldens us to do – to seek a blessing for the New Year:

May the Lord bless us and keep us 
shine the face of mercy on us 
be gracious to us 
look upon us kindly 
give us peace

But how will we find such a blessing, my friends, when we know that its hope is hidden in the unrelenting circumstances of our lives?


Let’s consider our Gospel today.
Just as Christ lay shining 
but in the damp hay of a dark manger…
Just as the word of his coming was announced 
but by rude shepherds who carried the angelic words,
so the blessing will come to us….clothed in the ordinariness of what we already know.

And it is this:

The power of God is always hidden 
in the flesh of our daily lives.


Let us turn to Mary today to remind ourselves of this mystery.

Before the Annunciation, when young Mary imagined the Messiah’s coming, do you think she pictured a godforsaken manger and a birth in a barn?

Do you think she imagined herself receiving ponderable angelic words through the mouths of illiterate shepherds?

Our inscrutable God comes to us
in ways we never imagine … yes, dear friends, even through pandemic suffering,
and the painful graces
it breaks open in our hearts.

Mary, whom we celebrate and invoke today, shows us how to take the next step into a new year —a year that will not perceptibly change in its challenges for some time to come.

It, too, will be filled with what looks like mangers and shepherds rather than the heavenly palaces and angels we might desire.

But Mary shows us that faith finds God by surrender to the grace of our ordinary lives.

Today, what we pray for one another through Mary’s intercession, is the grace to find the blessing in this mystery.

We pray to be encouraging witnesses for one another of:

  • faith even in darkness
  • resilience and courage during extraordinary challenge
  • hope in the face of discouragement
  • perseverance when we languish
  • loving service despite fear
  • Mercy pouring over pain

When we do these things, we become the blessing that we seek.

When we, like Mary, keep these things in our heart, we allow Christ to be born again even in our “unsettling” times.


Maria de Mercede, fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1472)

The most ancient prayer to Mary is the Sub Tuum Praesidium, dating from the 2nd century. It seems a perfect way to close our reflection today, and to open our hearts to hope for the New Year:

Under your protection,
we take our refuge, 
O Holy Mother of God:
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us from all evil,
O pure and blessed one.
Amen.

A truly blessed and joyful New Year to you all, Beloveds.


Music: Sub Tuum Praesidium in Latin (see above for English)

New Year’s Eve – 2019

Click here for today’s readings

new sunset

Today, in Mercy, we stand on the far western shore of the Year of Our Lord, 2019.

It is well near evening.  Our memories are silhouetted against the deep magenta sky as they sail beyond the shimmering horizon.  We have lived, laughed, lost and loved in ways never to be repeated, yet never to be forgotten.  The great turning of time goes relentlessly on, but we have written our story in its indelible trail.


With fireworks and reveling, popular culture will invite us to the brash celebration of our presence within this point in history.  But, at the altar of our hearts, we recognize this long evening of reminiscence as a time of quiet thanksgiving and petition.  It is a time of awe and trust.


 

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Like flint struck against the almighty soul of God, we have been given life.  We are God’s fire at this moment in time’s long unwinding.  Tonight, we turn our spirits to those beside us, behind us, before us and we pray in thanksgiving and hope for them.


 

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Together, we sink into the Dark Infinity of our Creator who sustains all life beyond our worries, fears and limitations.  With innumerable universes, God balances us in the Palm of Mercy.  As the midnight shadows fall, God closes the fingertips of grace and protection over us.

In the split moment between two years, we too become infinite – fire in God’s darkness, spark redeemed beyond time.


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In 2020, we will forget this transcendent moment.  The bright light of daily living will blind us to that piece of divinity shining in our souls.  But tonight, let us remember.  As midnight passes by, may our spirits kneel within us to the Awesome Mystery who holds us, as one, eternally within Itself.

A truly blessed New Year to you and your beloveds, my friends.

Music: Be Still My Soul – Kari Jobe

May God Bless Us in Mercy

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Click here for readings

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, bless our year.

Ps67 NY 2019

Today, in Mercy, we welcome the hope of 2019. When we were young nuns, we were introduced to the custom of letting the first thing we wrote in the New Year Be this phrase:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph

I’ve always kept the custom. It is good to remember with whom we step into this next moment in time.

Praying with our Gospel today:

  • It is good to rest with the infant Jesus in unconditional trust in the Father’s plan.
  • It is good to ponder with Mary that each moment’s meaning extends into eternity.
  • It is good to be with silent Joseph in listening trust and holy readiness.

As we begin again in hope and grace, let us do so in the company of this Holy Family. Let them bless us in mercy, as our psalm prays. 

May we have simple trust in their presence with and care for us. May this give us the courage to live another year with renewed faith, courageous hope and transformative love.

Happy New Year, dear friends!

Music: from our beautiful Responsorial Psalm 67, rendered here in Gaelic. (English below)

God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.

Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
For You shall judge the people righteously
And govern the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Then the earth shall yield her increase;
God, our own God, shall bless us.God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall obey Him.